King County considers hate crime hotline amid rise in racist attacks
King County is one step closer to establishing a phone and web hotline for residents to report hate crimes and bias incidents.
The proposed legislation, moved forward by the King County Council's Law and Justice Committee Tuesday morning, is slated to be voted on by the council at-large in the coming weeks.
In addition to reporting hate crimes, people living in King County would be able to report bias incidents that don't rise to the level of being criminal through the hotline.
Mike Reed, a senior research analyst for the county, explained the concerns underpinning the proposed legislation.
"These crimes and incidents are traditionally underreported for a number of reasons, including that the victims may not fully trust the information gathering agencies, or — particularly for immigrant communities — may fear retribution as a consequence of their reporting," he said.
Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who is the sponsor of the proposed legislation, said that the hotline would act as an intermediary between residents and law enforcement agencies, giving people who report hate crimes and incidents the option to do so anonymously.
A surge in anti-Asian hate crimes since the start of 2020, driven largely by racist misinformation about the coronavirus, has sparked amplified calls to action for local governments to intervene nationwide. The U.S. saw an increase in anti-Asian hate of 145% in 2020, according to the California-baed Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The King County Prosecutor's Office charged 59 hate crime cases in 2020 — that's 20 more cases than were charged in 2019. As of June 11, the King County Prosecutor's Office had charged 15 hate crime cases in 2021: Five against Asian or Pacific Islander victims; five in which Black victims were targeted by white assailants; two targeting individuals perceived as being undocumented immigrants; two targeting gay men; and one in which the victim was transgender.
Dunn’s proposal would form a working group made up of public agencies and community organizations to help launch the hate crime hotline and reporting system. Funding for the hotline would come out of a $150,000 supplemental Covid budget the Council earmarked in June, Dunn said.
Reed, the research analyst, cited similar legislation proposed in California, which would require the state attorney general "to establish and publicize a toll-free hotline number" for people to report hate crimes.
The Law and Justice Committee is also scheduled to review legislation proposing the creation of a hate crimes unit within the Criminal Investigation Division of the King County Sheriff's Office during its next meeting.